Friday August 21 was a mixed day for Canadian hockey fans.
The Montreal Canadiens lost their series against the Philadelphia Flyers in six and the Calgary Flames were also beaten by the Dallas Stars in six.
Canada’s only hope now rests on the shoulders of the very exciting Vancouver Canucks, who bounced the St. Louis Blues from the postseason in a dominating 5-2 Game 6 win.
Now the second round match-ups are set. There’s going to some very cool series lining up here, but let’s talk some of the news of the week.
“[He] will be eating his meals out of a straw”
Those were the words out of Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin’s mouth describing the severity of Brendan Gallagher’s jaw injury.
In Game 5 of the Montreal-Philly series, Gallagher was battling for a puck down low, turned around, and received a brutal cross-check to the mouth from Flyers’ defenceman Matt Niskanen.
Gallagher’s mouth was pouring blood, he was missing teeth, he almost certainly received a concussion.
Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault responded to Gallagher’s injury by saying that Gallagher “didn’t look that hurt”, and went on to basically say he had it coming.
Vigneault’s quote is a call-back to Gallagher’s 2014 comments that he made about Derek Stepan’s broken jaw when Vigneault was coaching the Rangers. This, objectively, is kinda funny that he’s held a grudge for that long. Professionally, it’s strange to see a coach double down on these types of comments after learning about the nature of the injury.
It was soon announced that what many suspected was true — that Gallagher suffered a broken jaw on the play and needs surgery, ending his season.
So now here’s Montreal, going into an elimination game without one of their best scorers.
The punishment for Niskanen from the Department of Player Safety? A one game suspension.
Anyone who saw the cross-check knew right away what the intention was. It’s difficult to put myself in the shoes of the DOPS, because frankly, it just seems like such an obvious punishment.
Niskanen’s only been fined once in his over 900-game career, but he was also delivered a similar cross-check to the face of Sidney Crosby in the 2017 playoffs. So even if he’s never been suspended before, there’s a precedent.
Arpon Basu wrote an awesome article in The Athletic about similar precedents for this kind of punishment in the playoffs, the DOPS’ explanation and why they got it wrong. Check it out.
The DOPS revealed that common sense doesn’t rule their decisions, which is too bad, because these are the exact type of hits that end careers.
Oh, and the Habs lost Game 6 and are now out of the playoffs.
The Flames get eliminated
The Calgary Flames are eliminated in possibly the most embarassing exit of the playoffs so far.
Going up in Game 5 3-0 in the first period is about as good a start as you can want from a team facing elimination.
Then the rest of the game happened
What proceeded to go down is one of the worst losses in the Flames recent memory. The Dallas Stars roared back onto the board, scoring seven unanswered goals including four from Denis Gurianov.
Also why is Gurianov not playing like 22 minutes a night? He’s clearly shown he’s one of the team’s premier talents, and was much better than either Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin this series. Luckily for the Stars, limited playing time for Gurianov proved to work out somehow.
For the Flames, this series stings. Losing Matthew Tkachuk early in the series was tough to replace, as much as Sam Bennett tried. It’s pretty clear that something needs to happen to this roster, and despite some people mocking the idea, maybe trading Johnny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan isn’t such a bad idea depending on the return.
Islanders beat the Capitals
I honestly don’t have much to say about this series because it was pretty cut and dry, the Islanders just beat the Capitals. Plain, simple, and definitive.
Barry Trotz really brought the Capitals into the world, and took them out of it just as effectively.
Mat Barzal was hands down the best player in the series. His speed just had no counter on Washington’s side. Ovechkin had a decent series, but the Russian Machine isn’t as effective out there anymore (besides goal scoring of course).
The saddest part of this series is the realization that Braden Holtby probably won’t on the Capitals next season. Which sucks because he’s a really good person and was one of the best goalies in the league for a couple years. He’s one of the only NHL players to take strong public stances on social justice issues, and in a league that’s so quiet on these things.
The Canucks beat the St. Louis Blues
The Vancouver Canucks, the only Canadian team left in the postseason, now have the pressure of this exact narrative being brought up every single game.
Beating the St. Louis Blues is no small feat. Last year’s Stanley Cup champs are a great team, that were undone by pretty terrible goaltending at a very bad time.
The Canucks owe their series win to a couple of things. The first thing is the play of some of their depth players, including Tyler Motte and Troy Stecher, who despite not being on the score sheet the most, their play was instrumental to the team moving on to the second round.
The second round match-ups are as follows:
Vegas vs Vancouver
Colorado vs Dallas
Philadelphia vs New York
Tampa Bay vs Boston
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